Travel had always beckoned me. I pictured myself sitting at a café in France, reading a book, and sipping coffee. It seemed like the right place for me. That was my perspective of Europe and my perception of the people there. Everything about travel seemed glamorous, fashionable, relaxed, and artistic. There were so many stereotypical images in my head of what being there might feel like. I made the decision to study abroad in the spring of 2015. I could have never guessed what kind of adventures I was in for. Not only were my expectations skewed, but I had also underestimated how much I could learn about myself while learning about a foreign place.
The second I arrived in Ireland, I felt completely lost. I was exhausted from the eight-hour flight, my new apartment smelled musty, the bedroom was bare and dull, and I had to put in maintenance requests for at least half of my appliances. It was beyond frustrating to be in a new place where nothing was normal or comfortable. I wasn’t excited or in awe of the sights—I was raw and scared.
It took me a few days to settle in and putting up pictures from home helped a lot in that process. I was still trying to adjust and handle everything that was being thrown my way when our study abroad liaison said some very wise words. She said, “Getting through culture shock is about becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. Things will happen that you’ll want your parents to help you deal with. You need to remember to decide things are adventures instead of crises.”
What qualifies as an adventure? What makes a situation a crisis?
Those words really stuck with me throughout my year abroad. I traveled through the United Kingdom, Italy, and Ireland. Trust me, there were many times along the way that I needed to remember to turn uncomfortable situations into potential exciting stories. Travel can be scary, unsettling, and unpredictable. My friends and I have wandered through train stations in Milan with no idea where to go, and language is always a potential barrier. If you make the most of these situations, though, you may find out more about the world—and about yourself—than you thought possible. Laugh at situations that could be taken as stressful. Take the opportunity to grow and learn.
Starting to take everything one minute at a time and accepting the unknown is key to finding yourself. Travel allows us to be independent and rely on ourselves. Our reactions help us to uncover who we are and what is important to us. The pictures we take, the friends we make, and the sights that take our breath away shape us.
What have you learned during your own adventures? Share your experiences with us on social media. Tag @Cfashionista to give your unique perspective.